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Divers Seek Wreckage Of Air Force Rescue Plane Navy Team To Assess Retrieval Possibility In Crash Fatal To 10

Navy deep-sea divers set sail Monday for the waters off Northern California to find the wreckage of an Air Force rescue plane that crashed last month, killing 10 crewmen based in Portland.

Twenty members of the Deep Submergence Unit will attempt to locate and film the HC-130P Hercules that crashed 40 miles off Mendocino. The crew was expected to arrive Wednesday or Thursday.

The plane’s crew, reservists with the 939th Rescue Wing’s 304th Rescue Squadron in Portland, reported a faulty engine and electronic failure about 45 minutes before the aircraft vanished from radar.

Only one crewman survived the Nov. 22 accident.

It crashed after taking off from Portland at 5:30 p.m. in rainy, foggy weather. Tech. Sgt. Robert T. Vogel was pulled from the rough water by Coast Guard rescue cutters.

The bodies of the aircraft’s commander, Capt. Robert P. Schott, 36, of West Linn and the mechanic, Staff Sgt. Ronald E. Garner Jr., 30, of Silverton, were recovered.

The remains of eight of the crewmen have not been found.

The unit, which is based at Coronado’s North Island Naval Air Station, will search the waters off Mendocino aboard the Laney Chouest, a 260-foot civilian ship under contract to the Navy.

Using a tethered, remote-controlled submersible vehicle called Scorpio, the unit’s first goal will be to find the wreckage through sonar and photography. That will allow military officials to determine if retrieval is feasible.

Two key factors in determining whether retrieval is possible, Papp said, will be the depth at which the wreckage is found and the condition of the seas.